J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 4.)
The prayer in Ephesians 1 is, as the counsels and plans of God are unfolded towards us and about Christ as One He is glorifying, and so our inheritance with Him, for the working of God towards us in enlightening us as to our place in these counsels, and the power that brings us into it far above every name and near and like Himself. Wondrous thoughts of God! But Christ Himself (and that is our blessing) is looked at as a Man dead, and we dead in sin, and God raises Him, and us in Him, and sets us all in the highest place of blessing and glory - but it is man dealt with.
The prayer of Ephesians 3 is relationship - the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And he sees already every family brought under this Name, and looks for another thing, the capacity to be at the centre as our portion - that God might grant, according to the riches of His glory developed in all this, to be inwardly strengthened with might by His Spirit. We are not heirs here, but are divinely made competent inwardly to be at the centre, and seize it all around. And thus it is Christ (He is the Centre of all) to dwell in our hearts by faith - known there, not merely on our lips, but faith realising Himself in the heart. Now this puts us in the divine centre in its very nature. We are rooted and grounded in love, but that is what God is. So there is a moral capacity to apprehend all that in which He displays Himself; for, dwelling in Him, we can comprehend what He displays, and "he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him." Thus the soul can look out in every direction, and all directions, into the display of divine glory. Still this, in itself, would be dazzling, and for the heart cold in a certain sense - the heart though adoringly admiring, would want an intimate object; and here consequently the Spirit, by the Apostle, returns to Christ again, and to "know the love of Christ" - One we know in the depths of the intimacy of His love, yet it passes knowledge for it is divine, and thus we are filled to the measure of the fulness of God. So the "Glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb was the Light thereof." We are brought into the whole sphere thus of the divine glory by Christ, dwelling in our hearts by faith, being our Strength and Capacity through the Spirit; but this puts us at its centre in love, and that love in the endeared intimacy of Christ, yet in the fulness of divine nature, for the love in which we are, and know, passes knowledge.
306 Hence "Glory to him" is looked for in the Church in all ages, according to His power that works in us. That is the practical result; what a place it puts us in as to this!
In the wonderful prayer of chapter 3, I think I see more order than heretofore. Under the name of "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," every class of being, "every family in heaven and earth" comes. It is not our knowledge, as in chapter 1, of our place as to calling and inheritance, and the power that brings us into it as Christ from death to the throne of God - wondrous translation! - but the whole scene of the display of God's glory under that Name, and Christ the central point; it is under His Father that they hold their place. Then the prayer demands that, according to the riches of His glory, of all the display of Himself as such in this universal sphere, we may be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man to be able to seize it all, but it is by His dwelling in our hearts by faith, who, while loving the saints perfectly, is the Centre of all this glory. Having Christ, who fills all the glory, thus in our hearts, we are capable of reaching out to all this, and this according to that love of which He is the expression and power to us, and He thus dwelling in us we are rooted and grounded in it.
Thus filled with that which is really God as to nature, and the wisdom of God as to understanding, we comprehend with all saints - for, having Christ in our hearts, it is impossible to be separated from them - the whole sphere and display of God's glory, breadth, length, depth, height, and not only so, but, Christ dwelling in us, we know that love which passes knowledge, but, thus apprehending the whole sphere and display of His glory, and the love of Christ which passes knowledge, we are led up to that out of which this flows, and of which this is the display. We are filled into (eis) - to this completeness - all the fulness of God.
Thus we get the internal competency, verses 16, 17 - the intermediate sphere and display, verse 18, and beginning of 19 - leading us to the whole fulness of God in itself. The Apostle then desires that, according to His power that works in us, this same strength, the effect may be produced - Glory to Him in the Church throughout all ages.
307 The preceding remarks are connected with the unsearchable riches of Christ, but further, as to the bearing of parenthesis, i.e., Ephesians 3:2-21.
Note too in chapter 3, verse 18 resumes morally what precedes. It is not 'That ye being rooted and grounded may,' but "being rooted and grounded in love, that ye may." It is a nominative absolute, and, I think, gives the Apostle's consciousness of what the effect in a soul of what precedes in verses 16, 17, or what the practical reality of such a strengthening and dwelling is.
The connection between the prayer in this chapter and the mystery is striking. God has established Christ as Centre and Head over all things, both in heaven and earth, but the Church is in immediate connection with Him. Being strengthened in might by His Spirit, Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. Thus the Centre, as to Spiritual understanding, is in our hearts that we may comprehend. But the centre of all, as to what characterises the source of the whole plan, is Love - this has made it - that is, God Himself. And we, Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, are rooted and grounded in love, and thus have the source, the motive centre which makes capable of comprehending - Christ being the revealed Centre as to the counsel, while bringing as He alone does, the love, for He is its manifestation and power. Then, if it is Christ's love, God's love, I must associate all saints, for that is the first circle which that love forms, and itself thinks of Having got this, which is intimate and immediate, I go out into the whole extent of that in which the God of love glorifies Himself - breadth, length, depth, height. But while this gives me the sphere, my soul wants to find the centre for itself, something more intimate, that is a stay for the soul in this vast scene - that is, it knows the love of Christ, One well known, tender, familiar, who serves, One who is ours in grace. Yet it is infinite, passes knowledge. Thus in counsels, nature, and the perfect revelation of love, we are filled up to the fulness of God. Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, the actual Centre of all, thus introduces us, in understanding and communion, into all.
Note, this is attributed to the One God and Father of all, in an abstract way, in Ephesians 4:6, and to Christ in the power of redemption, verses 9, 10.
The exhortations of chapter 4 are more especially founded on the end of Ephesians 2 - naturally so, as that is the responsible side of the Church, though not excluding the other character, as verse 4 shows, and also from verse 7 on. Chapter 3 comes in, not only as enlargement of the truth stated in its various bearings, but it brings the other, and more Colossian side of the mystery, in - Christ dwelling in the heart by faith - so that we are able to take it all in, look out at it as from a centre. Hence it looks by this power to the glorifying of God in the Church by this; that naturally brings the Apostle back to the exhortation to make it good now. In chapter 2:21, 22, we have the Church in the place in which it is to glorify; in chapter 3:20, 21, we have the power in which they fill this place, and then comes exhortation.
308 Note, too, how in Ephesians 4:15, the power of that in which Christ is said to have come is looked to be realised by the saint. "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ"; here, "speaking the truth in love" (aletheuontes en agape). And this confirms the connection of "in the truth," and "in truth," as in John. There is no truth in the inward parts but by the Truth and Word of God, which searches the thoughts and intents of the heart, in Christ's, the Truth's, being there. "Hence too the truth as it is in Jesus," putting off the old man, and putting on the new, renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us.
Note, further, in chapter 4, we have the two parts of verse 12, in verses 13 to 16. The first in verses 13-15; the last in verse 16. Nor is the middle part wanting, for the supply of the joints is the work of the ministry, and this connection is put in its arrangement; verses 13-15 is the main point governed by eis, and the ministry is connected with the edifying of the Body by pros, and so in verse 16. And this shows us what the work of the ministry is. There are permanent gifts used in service in a definite way, but there is a ministry by the supply of every joint. The Body edifies itself by the effectual working in the measure of every part. This makes permanent ministers, and the supply by every joint for the edifying of Body very clear, as to the place it holds. "He ascended up and gave gifts." Here are individuals given a place - some of them antecedent to the formation of the Body - all of them derived directly from Christ, and dependent on Him. But besides, and through this, and with it, there is a Body which, in all its parts, by the operation of the Spirit in each part, edifies itself. A pastor may come in in his place in this ministry, still he has a direct responsible service to Christ.
309 The three measures and principles of good in chapter 4 are the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, the new man created after God, and not grieving the Spirit. Then, as a general and wondrous rule, blessed as it is wondrous, "Be ye imitators of God as dear children." In this last, we have the most perfect expression of a divine walk in the world - following God in the affections of dear children - walking in love. That is the perfect, divine principle, love also to others; but, next, giving Himself, that is absolute and perfect - the giving up, not much by self, but self itself. Then, though there were love, perfect love to others, yet God was Himself objectively before the eyes, an offering and a sacrifice to God, to be a sweet smelling savour to Him. So with the incense, though others might smell the sweet odour, yet all was burned to God. This was the perfectness of Christ.
They were not to grieve the Spirit; that referred to subjective state and walk. Then, when they have had their objective measure of love and light, they are to be filled with it. But then in this we get the sobriety, and the 'beside ourselves.' Verses 15-17, it is sober; verses 18, 19, besides oneself, so to say. Will is gone, and honouring God's goodness, he can give thanks always for all things.
Further, we are light - that is one divine name - partakers of the divine nature. But it is never said we are love, because that is supreme goodness in its essential nature; but we love because we are partakers of it. Light, though intrinsically pure, shines. Love, save as the Father loves the Son, does not necessarily go out of itself, and indeed there it really does not. It delights in itself, when it exercises itself out of itself. It is sovereign, and hence we cannot be said to be it. But light always manifests itself, then other things. Hence, though essential, it is not so properly so as love.
310 Note, too, here besides the order noticed elsewhere in chapter 5:25, et seq., there is another point. Christ's first act is wholly written Himself. He loved the Church, and gave Himself for it. This is summed up in 'Himself,' but it embraces the whole of Himself. Now this is as is right. The first must be of and within Himself as being divine. It was a divine work, and so absolutely complete within Himself, and hence the love was perfect - He gave Himself; nothing was kept back. It was not a gift of something, but giving Himself. Yet it was love, and a work, we must remember, which had a specific object, which makes it so precious to us, and supposes that divine Person to be a Man indeed too - He loved the Church - for in giving Himself He was Man, though the gift, the thing given and He who gave was divine. But what I note now is, that before any application, any cleansing, or presenting another thing to Himself, He had accomplished by Himself a work - was complete in His own act and work - and that this suited the glory and perfectness of His divine Person.
Note too in this chapter, how, with the most perfect, devoted love, personally exercised and given as blessing, perfect, divine, moral excellency is looked for and wrought out too. He gave Himself. That is perfect love, for indeed the Church was in fact in the sink of this world. He would present it to Himself. There is the perfection of His love and her enjoyment. But between there is what is called for in order to the latter, and divine necessity morally - sanctifying and cleansing by the washing of water by the Word. The divine perfection applied morally, judging all of flesh, all evil, and revealing, requiringly but cleansingly, all good. And so we ought to take things, adore, trust to the love, but look for God's character as equally necessary and to be desired, what must be if it be a divine blessing. The purchase of love, giving Himself, comes first - what is His by perfect grace, He cleanses to have it according to His heart.
There is in chapters 4 and 5, another, and to me an interesting point. The relationships, up to speaking of wives, are with God. So Christ offers Himself for us to God. We have the objective perfectness of motive in God Himself, and so in the character of the work, as well as perfect self-sacrifice for others. But in Ephesians 5, in His loving the Church, it is a love of relationship. He still gave up self in love. He gave Himself for it, but it ends in the perfectness of His own acts, and He presents it to Himself. This is beautifully in its place, and perfect. How perfect Scripture too is! Christ ought to have the Church to Himself.
I am inclined, too, to think that "The fulness of him that filleth all in all," is not simply Godhead, but Christ in redemption. The passage in Ephesians 4:10, leads me to this. It is redemption - He who went into the lower parts of the earth, and now far above all heavens.
311 I do not know how far I have hitherto accurately remarked on the armour of chapter 6, that we have subjective, objective, active, and dependence.
[END OF VOLUME 4]